The hidden truths of the ‘2 Clear/ 4 Clear mix’

As experts within the timber industry, our aim is to provide customers with thorough, honest and factual information about our products.

There is a great deal of inconsistency within the industry relating to the grading of Western Red Cedar and we want to make customers aware of this so that a more informed decision can be made when it comes to selecting a supplier. 

A growing trend is emerging in the UK of selling Western Red Cedar as a mix of 85% ‘No.2 Clear & Better’ and 15% ‘No.4 Clear’ Western Red Cedar – it is often described as 85/15.

‘No.2 Clear & Better’ and ‘No.4 Clear’ are official grades of sawn, clear grade Western Red Cedar and are classified in accordance with R-List Export Grading & Dressing Rules book published by the Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau. Up until relatively recently these grades have always been sold completely separately. In fact, the practice of mixing grades appears to be an anomaly in the UK market, creeping in gradually over the last few years as organisations attempt to reduce the cost to the end user.

Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with this practice if, and only if, the customer receives no more than 15% ‘No.4 Clear’ (the lower of the two grades) in their shipment.

Unfortunately there appears to be a tendency to incorrectly grade an order as containing ‘15% No.4 Clear’ when it could in fact be a much higher percentage, hence providing incorrectly graded material presumably under the assumption that very few people know how, or will have the inclination, to check the grading rules.  

Using incorrect terminology causes confusion

At first glance Western Red Cedar grading rules (or any timber grading rues for that matter) may appear a little daunting, but by dissecting the limitations it’s fairly easy to identify the separate grades. Take a look at our quick-glance table that neatly compares three grading rules.

Another issue that can muddy the waters is the misnaming of Western Red Cedar grades.  The below examples are descriptions of grades that are advertised by some UK timber suppliers, none of which are actual official grades defined by the Pacific Lumber Inspection Bureau:

‘Clear & Better’
‘2 Clear’
‘2 Clear/4 Clear mix’

Ambiguous grading names provide an opportunity for a supplier to push lower grade material into the marketplace.  They may not be offering true like-for-like products offered by more transparent suppliers that describe the grades correctly and supply a product that actually meets or exceeds the grading rules.

We urge all customers to consider that a suspiciously low price quoted may actually be for a lower grade product than is being described. 

What are these grades? 

Another industry practice that we are aware of is sawing large sections of ‘No.4 Clear’ graded timbers into boards (generally used to produce cladding) and simply renaming it and selling it out as 85% No.2 Clear & Better/15% No.4 Clear.  While this may contain some material that could be graded as No.2 Clear & Better, the reality is that it will be nowhere near as high a proportion as 85%.  

Your supplier should have the confidence in their product for you to inspect and check the product that you are buying against the grade description in the R List Grading & Dressing Rules book. 

Feel confident in approaching the subject with suppliers.  If they aren’t able to discuss this openly with you then alarm bells should be ringing. 

Why buy from Silva Timber?

You can be assured that all Western Red Cedar supplied by Silva Timber is the grade as described and either meets or exceeds the grading standards set out in the aforementioned grading rulebook.  

We buy a consistently high quality raw material from one of Canada’s most reputable primary sawmills and we receive much positive feedback from customers about the quality and consistency of our products.

We’ve had feedback from customers who have previously bought Western Red Cedar elsewhere and found that they generated a lot of wastage from boards that do not meet the grade – a small percentage of wastage is to be expected when using any natural product but if the grading rules are adhered to it should be minimal.

If you are currently buying an 85%/15% mix from another supplier and you are not happy with the overall quality then please consider Silva Timber for your next order.  We offer consistently high quality, fine grained coastal grown Western Red Cedar in both No.2 Clear & Better and No.4 Clear grades. 

View Western Red Cedar Cladding >>

We have received much positive feedback for the quality of our ‘Silva Select No.4 Clear’ grade.  This is not surprising to us as we know it exceeds the grading rules and think its equal if not better than some of the 85%/15% mix that is currently being offered in the UK.

Don’t take our word for it - we have the utmost confidence in our product and we encourage you to visit our premises in Widnes to inspect our Western Red Cedar products for yourself.

We look forward to seeing you!